Monday, September 21, 2015

Shane Acker's animated feature "9" is based on a 4-year-project short film at UCLA

The 2009 79-minute animated film “9” (or “Nine”) by Shane Acker actually started out as a 10-minute short, which took the director 4-1/2 years to make, mostly by himself, at the Animation Workshop at UCLA, as part of a graduate degree.

The post-apocalyptic film starts with the Scientist (Alan Oppenheimer, one of four live humans), his arms looking shaved, finishing the last of his rag dolls, called “9”, enhanced with a symbolic talisman. The Scientist dies.  We then learn how the world as we knew it came to an end.  The Dictator had seized the Scientist’s invented Brain to create a Fabrication system that send the world into runaway destruction (hint, catastrophic warming).  The remaining nine (total, named by their sequential numbers) dolls wander a wasteland and survival trial.  Eventually “9” (Elijah Wood as voice) more or less prevails, leading to thunderstorms and rain and rejuvenation of life. There is an intricate concept of sharing souls (mainly, the Scientists) as well as their release and transfer.  Perhaps the dolls learn to share an identity (the way we think orcas may)..  The Monroe Institute would probably like this.

The Universal-Focus DVD has three short films with it explaining the film, as well as Acker’s original 10-minute short with commentary (as a silent film).  The first documentary, “The Long and the Short of It”(16 minutes) explains the derivation of the feature from the student film. The second “Look of 9” (13 minutes) lets Elijah Wood (“Frodo”) talks a lot about the way Acker took an older vision of the future, derived from pre-War Europe (and the time of the 1939 World’s Fair, perhaps), with various technologies that didn’t go the way that had been expected.  (Think of “Metropolis”.)  The third short is “Acting Oct” (5 minutes), and explains the stop-motion animation technology.
The deleted scenes on the DVD are mostly black-and-white storyboards.  The feature color palette is dark, with lots or oranges and browns, rather like Titan.

The official site (Focus Features) is here.
It’s remarkable how much is demanded of student filmmakers.  Tim Burton is one of the producers of the feature.

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